We’d all like to live a long, healthy life. Japan tops the list. The average life expectancy is 83.7 years old. In the US, we come in at #31 on that list with an average life expectancy of 79.3. (Men at 77.1 years and women at 83.4 years.) But even here in the United States, there is great variation state-by-state. In 2016, Hawaii had the highest life expectancy at birth (81.3 years). Mississippi had the lowest (74.7 years), a 6.6-year difference.
There are some factors we can’t control, such as hereditary factors and exposure to natural or man-made threats. But there are factors that we can control to increase our odds of a long, healthy life. And those controllable factors may play a bigger role than the ones that we can’t control. The New York Times features an excellent article on just this topic: How to Increase Your Chances of Having a Long, Healthy Life. It looks at a study recently published in JAMA. The State of US Health, 1990-2016 Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Among US States. It offers this key observation:
But the big enchilada, as this extraordinarily comprehensive study clearly demonstrates, is how people live their lives: whether they smoke, what and how much they eat, and whether they abuse alcohol or drugs. These, along with high levels of blood sugar and blood pressure, both of which are influenced by diet, are the main factors dictating poor health.
“About three-fourths of the variation in life expectancy between counties can be explained by these big risk factors,” Dr. Murray, epidemiologist and health economist at the University of Washington, said in an interview. “Much more is due to the sociocultural environment, especially what people eat, than to their genes or the physical environment.”
Lifestyle factors play a key role in longevity
Another recent study discussed in The Harvard Gazette quantifies just what the impact of healthy habits may mean to life expectancy. A new study led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that lifestyle habits in adulthood may increase women’s life expectancy by 14 years, men gain 12. (See Five healthy habits to live by.)
“Maintaining five healthy habits — eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking — during adulthood may add more than a decade to life expectancy, according to a new study led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Researchers also found that American women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.”
It’s never to late to improve your health habits and to reduce lifestyle risks. And to bolster your chances for success, we recommend wellness coaches – see our advice on How to Find a Wellness Coach: Characteristics for Success.